All posts tagged: Ernest Wan

Jeremy Denk

Notes of Profundity Grand Hall, Lee Shau Kee Lecture Centre, University of Hong Kong Hong Kong Jun 1, 2018 Ernest Wan American pianist Jeremy Denk’s debut recital in the city, presented by the University of Hong Kong’s Cultural Management Office, is one of those unusual cases where a classical concert is given a title that is not merely a factual description of the programme, pressing certain preconceptions of the music on the audience rather than just letting them make their own minds up as they listen.  One can try in vain to find out from the programme notes what this recital’s title, Notes of Profundity, is intended to bring to mind. The words “deep”, “deeper”, “deepest”, “depth”, “profundity” and “profundities” appear nearly 30 times yet remain unexplained, as if we all already had an idea, and even agreed on, what musical or aesthetic “depth” is all about. Such an unhelpful attempt to sound profound is especially unfortunate as it must be anathema to Denk, a widely admired writer on music known for his lucid, engaging prose that deftly demystifies his …

Backstage

By Ernest Wan All eyes in Hong Kong’s performing-arts world are currently on the Xiqu Centre in the West Kowloon Cultural District, which is slated to open at the end of this year. The building is officially described as “a centre for the production, education and research” of xiqu, the Putonghua word for what has conventionally and conveniently been known as “Chinese opera”. Accordingly, since last year West Kowloon has been presenting a number of talks that seek to increase people’s understanding of this art form. However, every year since 2014 a local performing group has been educating the public on Cantonese opera — the genre of xiqu found in Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China’s Guangdong and Guangxi provinces — in a much more adventurous fashion: in the form of contemporary drama, in English, and mostly in other parts of the world. According to Barbara Tang, executive director of Spring Glory Cantonese Opera Workshop, the idea of the theatrical work came from the inadequacy of talks on the subject. “For many years I have …

Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Concert Hall, Hong Kong  Cultural Centre Hong Kong Jan 18, 2018 Ernest Wan In each of its past three concert seasons, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, under the leadership of music director Jaap van Zweden, has presented one opera from Richard Wagner’s tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen, aka the Ring Cycle. The plaudits that these concerts and the commercial recordings made of them have received meant there were high expectations for Götterdämmerung (1874), the fourth, longest and toughest work in the cycle. Happily, this final instalment did not disappoint. The orchestra, over a hundred strong, inevitably sometimes overwhelmed the solo singers, with the former just behind the latter on the stage. Daniel Brenna sounded youthful as the hero Siegfried should, but his voice and tone were wanting in power and focus respectively. As Gunther, the ruler of the Gibichung race, Shenyang had a sound that was dark and indistinct in Act One, but thereafter his voice opened up. By contrast, Eric Halfvarson sang with power and authority throughout, in a vivid and often frightening portrayal of the villain Hagen, Gunther’s half-brother. Peter …

Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Concert Hall, Hong Kong Cultural Centre Apr 22, 2017 Ernest Wan Mahler’s Symphony No 6 constituted the bulk of this concert by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra with music director Jaap van Zweden – but the premiere of Conrad Tao’s swallow harbor that preceded it was just as interesting: a work inspired by Hong Kong is a rarity on the programmes of the city’s flagship ensemble. Born in Illinois to Chinese parents, the 22-year-old composer visits Hong Kong infrequently and, as he has said himself, his “portrait” of the city is based on his impressions during a short sojourn at the end of last year. Another influence, according to Tao, is Varèse’s early works, especially Amériques. In swallow harbor, there is no confluence, as one might expect, of western and eastern aesthetics à la Chou Wen-chung, a protégé of Varèse who is the grand dean of Chinese-American composers. Yet, sure enough, it employs a wide array of percussion instruments, begins with a sound incorporating a lion’s roar, from a friction drum, and abounds in fragmentary bursts of timbres and other explosive …